OSAGE | At a recent Osage Schools Board of Education meeting, members of the Osage High School Language Arts Department presented a pilot project which consists of a new method of grading.

The new standards-based system, relies on a score of 1-4, 4 being, “student meets expectations and student understands the course standards and are able to demonstrate the material with no to minimal errors”, 3 being, “student understands much of the work but cannot show it by themselves without several errors, 2 being, “a student has a limited understanding of the material with aid needed in order to make progress, and 1 being , “the student can attempt the standard but understands very little.”

The change in grading is an effort to assess students on what they know and also address the large gap in the old grading policy, where anything that fell between 0 and 60 was considered failing. Under the system which has traditionally been in place, students receive a grade and move on, which can leave students falling further and further behind if they failed to understand the material the first time. Under this new grading system, students who score a 1 or a 2 would be able to go back on their own time and study the material, seeking help before or after school from their teachers. They would be able to retake the tests they failed in order to get a better grade.

“Look at something like math,” said Osage High School Principal Tim Hejhal, “where everything builds off each other. We want to encourage students to go back and learn it, to make sure they understand it and continue to advance.

“Right now, they know once they take the test, they are done with the material and there is nothing that can be done if they didn’t do well.”

Another important point Hejhal stated was many schools have been steadily getting rid of their class-ranking systems, including the valedictorian at graduation.

“It’s not about the competition.” he said, “It’s about all kids learning at a high level. A kid can get a 4.0 and still not get a scholarship, where as a kid with a 3.0 and a high ACT score can be awarded one. The ACTs are really a more apples-to-apples comparison of what a student knows versus what their grade point average states.

“A 4.0, at one school, can be very different from a 4.0 at another, as can a 4.0 between students. One student might have taken more difficult classes, while another might have taken less challenging ones in order to preserve the 4.0. So the impact of grade is not as important for scholarships as it used to be.”

The school will continue to recognize high honors of 3.0 or greater at the senior award assembly, but Hejhal wants students to focus more on learning the material and showing an understanding of it, in additions to the rigors of the classes they take and their standardized test scores.

This year’s ACT results have been returned to the school, showing the percentage of students ready for college-level coursework.

In College English Composition, 76 percent of Osage students showed readiness for college-level coursework versus the 71 percent of students across the state. In college algebra, 59 percent of Osage students scored they are ready for college level coursework, 14 percent higher than the 45 percent for the state. In social Science, Osage came in with 55 percent, the same as the state level of readiness, while in college biology, students at Osage came in at 53 percent, which was greater than the state percentage of 45 percent. In readiness in all four aspects, 37 percent of the Osage students scored they were ready for college level coursework, which was greater than the state average of 31 percent.

“I think many times parents are concerned about where their child will rank, or if allowing another child to retake a test means that their own student’s ranking will change,” said Hejhal. “We want to take the competition out of learning. We want all of our students to succeed.”

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